On Senate Floor, Portman Commends Law Enforcement Officials and National Guardsmen Who Defended U.S. Capitol and Presidential Inauguration Ceremony
“They Did Their Duty, as They Do Every Day, in Defense of the Values We Americans Hold Dearest -- Democracy, Liberty, Rule of Law. And We All Owe Them a Debt of Gratitude.”
WASHINGTON, DC – Today on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) expressed his gratitude for the men and women of the United States Capitol Police, the U.S. Secret Service, and the U.S. National Guard who defended the Capitol during the inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Harris in the wake of the violent mob that stormed the building on January 6. He described visiting with some of the nearly 1000 Ohio National Guardsmen and women who were deployed to Washington ahead of the inauguration, and also highlighted the outstanding work the Ohio Army National Guard has done in helping the state respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Portman also mourned the loss of USCP officers Brian Sicknick, who was killed in the attack, and Howard Liebengood, who died shortly after. He committed to leading the bipartisan investigation into the security failings on January 6 in a fair, thorough, and expeditious manner along with the committees of jurisdiction – the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the Rules Committee, Appropriations Committee, and the Intelligence Committee so that such a tragedy does not happen again. But Portman also commended the heroism displayed that day by individuals like Officer Eugene Goodman, who led rioters away from the Senate chamber, and Inspector Thomas Lloyd, who stood alongside his officers to push back against the mob.
Finally, Portman also honored the life of Toledo Police Officer Brandon Stalker who tragically gave his life in the line of duty on Monday.
A transcript of the speech can be found below and a video can be found here.
“I rise today on the floor to talk about what happened yesterday at the Capitol and what happened two weeks ago at the Capitol. Yesterday we had the 59th Presidential Inauguration right here. The Citadel of Democracy was once again the place where a president and vice president were sworn in for four years.
“Starting in 1789, every four years America and the world has witnessed this remarkable event that provides for the peaceful transfer of executive power and the continuity of government, something we sometimes take for granted, but is rare even today. It has happened through wars. It's happened through economic recessions. We've had our inaugurations today and during this unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. What's more, the inauguration took place two weeks to the day on the very west steps of the United States Capitol where a violent mob stormed this building, desecrating these halls, and tried to stop our constitutionally mandated deliberations in this body.
“It was the ninth inauguration ceremony I've attended. I was proud to be there as President Biden and Vice President Harris were sworn in. I'm here on the floor today to thank the Capitol Police and other law enforcement agencies -- including the Secret Service and its director Jim Murray who took the lead on this national special security event to ensure that things went smoothly, that we indeed had a peaceful transfer of power.
“I also want to give special thanks to the men and women of the National Guard who worked to ensure this ceremony was safe and secure. Over the past two weeks 25,000 National Guard troops from across the country, including all 50 states and three territories, answered the call, leaving their family and friends, and for most, leaving their regular jobs to help defend this sacred celebration of democracy that occurred at this place yesterday. This number of 25,000 troops includes nearly 1,000 Guardsmen from my home state of Ohio. I had the opportunity to meet with a couple hundred of these citizen soldiers from Ohio yesterday. I was able to tell them how much we appreciate their commitment to the mission and what they've done truly to protect democracy and to help our Capitol Police during a stressful time. Because of their efforts, the ceremony was safe for everyone in attendance and we were able to proceed with this transfer of power. When I thanked them, they all told me the same thing. They were just doing their duty. They were proud to be here. They were protecting their country and their fellow citizens.
“I've seen this firsthand over the years when I visited Ohio National Guard installations around our state including the Mansfield Air Base, the Toledo Air Base, the Springfield Air Base, Rickenbacker Air National Guard. During this pandemic, when more Americans than ever are facing severe food insecurity, I've had the chance to hand out food with members of the Ohio Army National Guard who have been working around the clock at food banks I've been at, like Greater Cleveland's food bank or Central Ohio’s food bank. They're working hard alongside volunteers to respond to a true crisis. But that’s not all. The Ohio National Guard has played an essential role in providing critical assistance to our prisons and our jails when guards were out with the COVID virus. They've helped with testing. They've helped to get the COVID-19 vaccines distributed across our state and they are continuing to do that. We can't thank them enough for what they've done during this time of crisis.
“As I visited with the Guard this week, both with regard to the Ohio members and guard from all over the country, including some conversations I had this morning, I've told them all what I've heard from the Capitol Police this week. I've heard that they really appreciated the backup at a time when shifts had been long, sleep has been rare, and the effects of the attack on the Capitol are still acutely felt.
“It's been a tough two weeks on our Capitol Police officers, been a tough two weeks since the attack on the Capitol. I want to take this opportunity to also express the gratitude of all of us in this chamber and all Americans to the Capitol Police for bravely holding the line against an illegal, violent mob that threatened this building, our proceedings, and our colleagues. In effect the men and women of the Capitol Police Force put their lives on the line to defend democracy. It's that simple. As I said on this floor that terrible night two weeks ago, it was because of their courage that we were safe and because of their courage that we were able to demonstrate to the American people and the world that we were going to accomplish our Constitutional duty of certifying the election. They allowed us to do that.
“As a Congress we've begun a complete impartial and nonpartisan investigation as to what went wrong that day. I'm working across the Senate with the committees of jurisdiction – the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, where I will be the ranking Republican, the Rules Committee, the Appropriations Committee and the Intelligence Committee -- to ensure our Capitol Police are never put in that kind of position again. We are performing oversight to ensure they have what they need to be able to protect the Capitol going forward. Without prejudging our investigation, we must consider what reforms need to be made and take a hard look at the physical security of our Capitol complex. While these buildings must remain accessible to the people, we need to look at incorporating the best practices and physical security to include shatter-proof windows and doors that can't be easily breached. This will cost money, but it's absolutely necessary based on what happened on the 6th of January. I look forward to helping lead this bipartisan effort and I urge my can fellow members of Congress to join in.
“Again, I don't want to prejudge our review, but I know among the findings we will make is a finding that the officers on the line were heroic and those officers deserve our gratitude. We must never forget those who lost their lives that night, including a law enforcement officer, member of the Capitol Police, Officer Brian Sicknick, who since 2008 had patrolled these halls and been a familiar face to many of us, tragically killed defending this Capitol. He gave his life in heroic defense of us and our democracy.
“Only a couple of days after the attack, I learned of the tragic news that we lost another officer, a friend, officer Howard Liebengood. Howie was on duty the day the Capitol was attacked and responded to the attack just as his many brave comrades did. He experienced some difficult experiences that night. I was devastated to learn of his death the next day. Howie was someone I used to see almost every day, usually stationed in the Russell building where my office is located. He was an utmost professional, someone who took great pride in his work and had an ironclad commitment to keeping people safe. His dad was Sergeant at Arms here at one time. He brightened my day every time I saw him. The last time was a few weeks ago when he was standing guard outside the doors to the Russell building, alone in the cold, alert, vigilant and good-humored. Today I reread a letter that I wrote to the Chief of the Capitol Police several years ago commending the exceptional work of Howie and his partner Chris Gallo, for their ‘professionalism coupled with their kind demeanor.’ Howie represented what is great and good about not just our police force but our country. Rest in peace, Officer Brian Sicknick and Officer Howard Liebengood.
“Through the tragedy of that day, two weeks ago, came other stories of bravery and valor too. We heard about the heroic actions of Officer Eugene Goodman, an Army veteran whose quick thinking under intense pressure protected us here in this Senate chamber by leading the mob away from the chamber while many of us were still inside. He unselfishly put himself in danger and despite the risk, handled himself with the professionalism that defines the Capitol Police, and I was pleased to see his promotion. Officer Goodman’s heroic efforts are to me representative of the actions of all the brave officers of the Capitol Police, who on that day of violence and lawlessness held the line against the mob.
“I'm proud of another member of the Capitol Police. This is the supervisor. Inspector Tommy Lloyd is commander of the Capitol division -- as compared to the House and Senate, commander of the division to protect the Capitol itself. This is a powerful photograph that I saw in ‘Time’ magazine. It's a photograph of him facing the mob, shoulder to shoulder with his line officers. The Capitol was breached but because of the valor of these men and women, we were able to complete our job and are able to be here today discussing the workings of our democracy, confirming members of the new administration, doing our job. The actions of law enforcement in the Capitol should serve as a reminder to all of us of the risk our police officers take every single day to keep us safe, not just here in the Capitol but around the country.
“On Monday, for example, the city of Toledo, Ohio lost one of its own when Officer Brandon Stalker of the Toledo Police Department was killed in a standoff with a gunman. Officer Stalker, only 24 years old, was a father to two young children and engaged to be married. He had a promising life ahead of him. My thoughts are with the friends and the families of Officer Stalker and the friends and families of Officers Sicknick and Liebengood during this difficult time.
“Even with all the threats and challenges they face, our officers of the law here and around the country carry on in their duties to protect and to serve. They are truly the best of America. Officer Stalker's fellow officers will continue to patrol the streets of Toledo to keep its citizens safe. And yesterday, despite the hardships they have faced, the Capitol Police once again lined the halls of Congress, keeping watch over the inauguration of the next President and Vice President of the United States.
“Together the National Guard, the Capitol Police, Secret Service, other law enforcement protected a presidential inauguration that was at once like none other in recent memory, yet also a continuation of a long and great tradition -- an unbroken chain of peacefully transferring power that our nation has cherished since 1789. They did their duty, as they do every day, in defense of the values we Americans hold dearest -- democracy, liberty, rule of law. And we all owe them a debt of gratitude.”